Walmart Focuses On Financial Services

The Lempert Report
September 02, 2013

Walmart is continuing its push into the banking world.

Retail stores entering the banking world isn’t a new thing, but we at The Lempert Report expect banks will escalate their fight to keep Walmart off their turf—especially now that the Dodd-Frank financial reform law no longer bars retailers and other non-financial firms from offering financial services. “If Congress simply does nothing and regulators apply the law fairly, Walmart could begin offering affordable, credit, savings accounts and CDs to consumers,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Walmart has more than 245 million customers (worldwide), thus there’s great potential for people to bank where they already buy their food, clothing and hard goods. The nation’s largest retailer has long offered bill pay, money orders, check cashing, money transfers, tax preparation, the reloadable Bluebird pre-paid card and other financial conveniences—and it has been eyeing bigger banking prizes for years But while a Walmart Spokesperson told McClatchy the chain no longer wants to become a bank they certainly have their eye on other ways to offer financial services. For example? Progress Financial, a money lending company that is targeting Hispanics. And as reported by Bloomberg Businessweek, Progress Financial “is run by a former Walmart executive, a Walmart director sits on the lender’s board, and the founding Walton family’s venture capital firm is its largest shareholder.” A report issued by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) last September says 8.2% of U.S. households, that’s about 10 million households and 17 million adults do not have bank accounts, a huge pool of consumers who be targeted with alternative financial services offers, since many might not qualify for bank loans. Progress Financial, is one of several firms targeting an estimated 23 million U.S. Hispanics “unable to get traditional loans because they have limited credit histories.” ?This is a smart move by Walmart to offer financial services to a niche market that currently has few other banking options, as long as consumers are not stuck with astronomical interest rates this could be beneficial to many.